Cat won't let us sleep!
May 16, 2008 2:27 PM   Subscribe

My cat has recently taken to waking us up in the middle of the night, every night. She's done this before, but not for this long.

Gabs has recently decided that Mr. CrazyGabby and I must be awakened between 3-5 a.m. She does this by yowling at the top of her lungs and knocking things off our nightstands. If we close the door to keep her out of the bedroom, she simply gets louder.

She's been doing this for the last couple of weeks. We've made sure she has food, water, a clean box, etc. It seems like she just wants some attention - I can dangle my hand over the side of the bed, and she'll come and get a nice head scratch, then wander away...for a few minutes, at least. She's also been unusually playful. (Pouncing our ankles, wanting to play fetch, etc.) She's usually a lazy-butt, so this is a little odd. We've tried to play with her some more during the day, but it hasn't stopped her waking us up.

She seems pretty healthy, aside from some occasional vomiting, nothing that can't be explained by hairball season. When cleaning her box today, I noticed that her stool seemed a bit pale, but she's eating and eliminating normally. There haven't been any changes in our lives lately - we haven't moved, haven't changed her food, haven't changed our sleeping habits, etc.

I guess I have two questions. First, should we be worried about her sudden desire to get attention in the middle of the night? Is there something that might be causing her behavior that we should look into? Second, if she really is just being a brat, has anyone else successfully stopped this sort of thing?

posted by CrazyGabby to Pets & Animals (26 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Forgot to mention - she's 8 years old, and was spayed when she was little.
posted by CrazyGabby at 2:30 PM on May 16, 2008

It doesn't sound particularly out of the ordinary - cats usually have an ability to sense when you least want their attention so that they can only give it to you then, and not ever when you do want it. Nature of the beast, and all that.

For prevention: water spray bottle, locking them in a different part of the house that isn't so close to your bedroom, or throwing 'em out of the house altogether. Most of our cats that have bothered us at night (as opposed to near dawn) just want to go out and terrorize the neighbourhood. They get bored inside when everyone is sleeping.
posted by mbatch at 2:40 PM on May 16, 2008

I agree, it's probably not really anything to worry about. I'm not a fan of spray bottles, personally; I find that blowing in their little furry faces is enough.
posted by jabberjaw at 2:42 PM on May 16, 2008

Whatever you do...don't get out of bed to pet her! Your cementing her bad behavior. Even if it means a few nights of annoyance, just let her yowl. (If you can put her out or put her in another room, that will allow you to get some sleep.) Cats have a pretty short memory, and a week should suffice to break the bad habit. My housemates cat used to try meowing and throwing herself against the door - It was hard, but I made a point to never come out of my room while she was doing that. She rarely does it now.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 2:45 PM on May 16, 2008

My cat used to do this incessantly. You have to understand that cats are nocturnal creatures so while they seem lazy all day, they want activity during the nighttime hours.

Does your cat have a sense of boundaries? i.e. have you disciplined her for anything else successfully? If you have, you can reprimand her the same way for bugging you in the middle of the night like that (some suggest using squirt guns, but I just give them a gentle but swift tap on the forehead) when she starts yowling just discipline her and close the door. It may take a number of times and nights before she learns, but she WILL learn if you are consistent and don't "give in".
posted by tybeet at 2:48 PM on May 16, 2008

Getting a second kitty stopped this from happening to me... just sayin'.
posted by loiseau at 2:48 PM on May 16, 2008

Our cat was much younger than yours and after a year of this we caved and acquired #2. Now we never get was just bored.
posted by iamabot at 2:50 PM on May 16, 2008

Whatever you do...don't get out of bed to pet her!

Quoted for truth. I made this mistake long ago and now I have the neediest seven year old cat alive.
posted by desjardins at 2:50 PM on May 16, 2008

Oh, but getting a second cat DID help immensely.
posted by desjardins at 2:51 PM on May 16, 2008

Best answer: Our cat used to do this - to the point of driving us to distraction - until we got him a "little sister" when he was a couple years old. I don't know if you have space for Cat #2, but Gabs is far more likely to play with another cat than you, when you're being boring. :)
posted by GardenGal at 2:57 PM on May 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

This may not be behavioural, get her checked out at the vet. Distinctive behavioural changes like this need checking out to see if there is a physical cause of them first.
posted by Arqa at 3:09 PM on May 16, 2008

Having a second cat is not always the solution. My little monsters take turns with the 3am wake up the human tasks.
posted by birdherder at 3:18 PM on May 16, 2008

Our girl cat started doing this at about the same age. Turns out she was hyperthyroidic. Have your vet do a blood panel - she's about at the age where they should be checking it anyway. I've had mine on daily meds for the last 8 or 9 years (tapazole, before switching to methimazole this year) and she's fine (she's 17 now).
posted by hangashore at 3:45 PM on May 16, 2008

That second cat? That just means you'll hear the sounds of them chasing each other all night instead of the yowling. I would prefer the chasing to the yowling, but you should stand informed.
posted by wierdo at 4:00 PM on May 16, 2008

From the Cat's Point of View may be useful.
posted by WCityMike at 4:31 PM on May 16, 2008

Ours did this for a period. I decided to make sure he didn't sleep long during the day by waking him up from his catnap and putting him on the floor every hour. That one day broke him out of his yowling at night, he just slept. Can't be certain, but I think that's what did it.
posted by artdrectr at 5:24 PM on May 16, 2008

I stand by my "be a cat" philosophy, learn to 'hiss' and smack them, and then curl up with them in the sunbeams. Pretend you're a cat and you'll eventually get along just fine.
posted by zengargoyle at 5:33 PM on May 16, 2008

Please don't "smack" your cats. You are not a cat. You are much larger, heavier, and stronger than a cat.
posted by mikeand1 at 5:39 PM on May 16, 2008

Our cat does the same night-time howling thing. I've heard many owners complain about this.

I don't know what to tell you about it, unfortunately. I'm all ears, for anyone who has an effective remedy.
posted by mikeand1 at 5:40 PM on May 16, 2008

When our cat does this, we bring him onto our bed, and pet and scratch his ears. He settles like a kitten and kneads and usually settles down. He was just feeling lonely.

When they cats meow to get our attention, 9 times out of 10 it is because either their food or water dish are empty. They really are simple beings.

As some mentioned, have two and they play with each other. But be prepared to get pounced on and run over in the middle of the night as they play. Still, it beats yowling so you can't sleep.
posted by casadecruz at 6:02 PM on May 16, 2008

Seconding hangashore on checking for hyperthyroidism - the vomiting combined with the neediness (and a lot of hyperactivity for an elderly kitty) were the indicators for my cat - she was just so active, like a kitten...

That said, for our younger cat, who is not afflicted with any known disease besides boredom in the middle of the night, the SO crafted an effective (if obnoxious) cure. A vacuum cleaner next to the bedroom door, hooked to a remote switch (in this case, an X-10 connected to a remote). When the little one's ringing the doorknob with her claws at 3am got too much, a click and a vroom executed by the SO woke us all up (much to the "argh, can't we let her in!?" from me). I think it took three times and she just stopped?

If your schedule changes and she goes back to it, you can simply put the vacuum in eyesight of the door again and all is well unless there's a real good reason to wake you up - no food, someone/something in the house, something's combusted somewhere...our cat's a real feline Lassie. Also, if your cat likes to play with you/toys, it might help to throw her toys to her and spend some concentrated time with her in the early evenings before you go to bed (this also may help you feel less cruddy about the vacuum cleaner trick). They say cats can't do tricks, but you'd be amazed at what they can learn when/if you/they can spend concentrated playtime together.
posted by jenh at 6:20 PM on May 16, 2008

With our cat, we've had some success with feeding her half a bowl of food in the morning, nothing during the day, and then again right before bed. She eats and then settles in for a long sleep. It usually works, except when it doesn't.
posted by ga$money at 6:21 PM on May 16, 2008

Ok, I guess 'swat' would be better than 'smack'. I'm not advocating beating the kitty, just pretend you're a cat, hiss and 'swat' them when they piss you off, curl up and purr with them when everything is all good. Call them to bed with you even if they only stay for 15 minutes or so. If you're going to watch a DVD or something else where you're going to be in the same place for a couple of hours, get them to come and take a nap in your lap. I've had too many cats over the years, they all turned out pretty nice.
posted by zengargoyle at 6:42 PM on May 16, 2008

First meow, bring her to bed.
Second meow, kick her out and shut the door.
It sounds like it would just encourage kitty to meow even more since it seems to reward bad behavior, but this is the only thing that worked for me. I had tried ignoring her, using spray bottles, throwing socks, and I even built a mote at my bedroom door to keep her away.
I really think kitty just got lonely and wanted to know what we were doing.

I also notice that when it's warmer, kitties act up a lot more. Keep your house colder at night if you can.
posted by idiotfactory at 12:54 AM on May 17, 2008

From someone who is going through the same thing , I can really empathize. Hope things work ou....zzzzzz
posted by watercarrier at 11:24 AM on May 17, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks so much for the answers, everyone! After much deliberation, we decided to break down and get a second kitty. (We were thinking about it before all of this, so her boredom was kind of the tipping point.) We haven't introduced them yet, but I have high hopes. In the meantime, she's actually been letting us sleep till 5:30 or so. :-) Such an angel, she is.
posted by CrazyGabby at 10:06 AM on May 20, 2008

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